My first skiing experience occurred more than three decades ago when I was in Grade 5 in southern Ontario. We were lucky enough to get out of school for a day of skiing at Fonthill, a tiny hill by BC standards on the side of the Niagara Escarpment. I remember standing in my skis on the slope during the group lesson and then trying to control my descent with the “snowplough” method we had just been taught. Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to figure it out. I just kept going and going, finally ending up stuck in some deep snow at the bottom of the hill. One of the instructors had to come and dig me out, and I was so embarrassed that I feigned illness and spent the rest of the day in the lodge.
My embarrassment kept me off the slopes for a long time, but as the years went by, I grew to regret my immature choice to give up that day, so when I found myself in Whistler late year and learned that Whistler Blackcomb offers beginner lessons for adults, I decided to give it a try.
I had no skis, of course, or outerwear appropriate for skiing, but the rental store assured me that they had everything I needed—which was pretty surprising to me since I am 6’6” with size 16 feet. Admittedly, the clothes were a little tight but I had already promised myself I wouldn’t give up easily this time so I squeezed myself into the ski pants and jacket and hobbled to the base of the hill to meet my instructor for the half-day lesson.
It was a small group lesson with three other adults. As we rode the lift up to the training area, the instructor, an Australian named Tony, asked us to introduce ourselves. Susan, an American in her early 40s, was used to snowboarding but thought skiing might be easier on her feet. Her husband and kids were elsewhere on the ski hill, already carving trails on their snowboards. Pavel, also in his 40s, grew up in Russia and then emigrated to the U.S. about a decade ago. Duncan, 55, was visiting from Toronto as part of a big group of friends who had all known each other since high school. He had never skied before—unless waterskiing counted—but he was an avid cyclist.
The training area was on a very gradual hill, but we didn’t even get to ride the “magic carpet” to the top of that tiny hill for first couple of hours. Tony started us off with a series of methodical lessons designed to teach us the basics we needed to be able to control ourselves on the snow. Finally, we got to try it out on the slope and I’m happy to report I was able to control my descent quite effectively. I didn’t even fall down … the first time. Tony kept a close eye on each of us, giving us specific pointers, encouraging us to gain confidence as our skills grew.
It was fun getting to know the other “ski students.” Pavel was the quietest, but he did say (in his heavy Russian accent) that he lived in Vancouver, Washington: “But if I say Vancouver, people say, ‘BC?’ I say, no, Washington, and they say ‘D.C.?’”
By the time we stopped for lunch, I was soaked in sweat, but I was really starting to feel like I was getting the hang of it. After lunch, we had another hour of lessons with Tony before he gave us our freedom. He warned us not to take any big risks right away, and said the best way to progress would be to stay on the “bunny hill” for that full day before trying something more challenging. I followed his advice and stayed for another hour or so, but by then I was exhausted and decided to pack it in.
An hour later I was relaxing my sore muscles in a steam room at Spa Scandinave, an outdoor Nordic spa just outside Whistler Village, and looking forward to my next experience on the slopes.
For more information on adult skiing lessons at Whistler-Blackcomb, see their website.
Skiing and Snowboarding in British Columbia